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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Reporting Beyond the Medical Study on PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’

EPA Water Sampling

Scientists from the US Environmental Protection Agency are collecting water samples. Public domain photo by Eric Vance

The “Forever Chemicals”, known as PFAS, have been receiving more attention in the past few years as several studies have been published about their link to certain diseases and cancer. Media outlets have written about and reported on those studies when they were released, but there has been little exploration beyond the initial publications.

Recently, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, a nonprofit in Anchorage, hosted a Webinar focused on perse- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and children Uncovering groundbreaking research linking PFAS exposure to metabolism in adolescents and young adults. The discussion with one of the researchers on the latest study was part of the CHE-Alaska series, a larger network of individuals and organizations focused on environmental health.

the study, “Exposure to PFAS substances and glucose homeostasis in youth,” found that exposure to synthetic chemicals alters biological processes such as the metabolism of amino acids and fats, and also alters the way the thyroid functions. This change affects the growth and development of the child and increases the risk of chronic diseases and many cancers. The research, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, was published in the National Institutes of Health Environmental Health Perspectives.

Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to liver and kidney disease, reproductive problems, and some cancers. But it was not yet known whether it has an effect on metabolic processes. The new study focused on finding links between PFAS mixtures and changes in amino acid and lipid metabolic pathways in adolescents and young adults.

“This was the first study that took this approach – looked at all these[markers]in the blood of children, measured different PFAS and looked at whether the PFAS was causing widespread biological changes,” said Dr. Jesse Goodrich, co-author Reports and assistant professor in the University of Southern California School of Population and Public Health Sciences. “We saw consistent results across all groups.”

Synthetic chemicals disrupt metabolism and interfere with hormones, stimulating fat storage and altering appetite control that lead to weight gain, Goodrich said. He added that obesity is often driven by metabolism and when it is injured it doesn’t function the way it should.

Research has found links to tyrosine metabolism and lipid metabolism, which translates to an increase in thyroid disease, kidney disease, fatty liver disease and other cancers.

What are PFAS?

There are over 12,000 known PFAS chemicals and they are used in many products including fire fighting foam, nonstick cooking pans, clothing, food packaging and cosmetic products. It has also been found in drinking water and some foods.

Most Americans Have PFAS in Their Blood, According to Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Coming in contact with water is one of the main ways people come in contact with it. PFAS levels in water to be reviewed through Environmental Working Group National Tap Water DatabaseWhich can be searched by zip code.

PFAS are particularly troubling because the toxic chemical remains in the body for five to seven years. The way to reduce the effects of PFAS is to reduce exposure as soon as possible.

Childhood exposure is particularly harmful

The most recent reports have made it clear that children have a higher sensitivity to chemicals than adults because they are still developing. This is a critical period of development when diseases that appear later in the child’s body take their toll.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that these results were more prominent in girls, Goodrich said. Higher PFAS levels in girls were associated with higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes than in boys.

Researchers analyzed test results of 312 overweight or obese teens who were recruited between 2001 and 2012 for the Study of Latino Adolescents at Risk and 137 young adults who were recruited from 2014 to 2018 for the Southern California Child Health Study. were part of.

Goodrich, who has spent the past decade researching “Forever Chemicals,” said the study focused on Hispanic teens and young adults because Hispanics are already at higher risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease because of environmental factors. Are.

“It’s an environmental justice question,” Goodrich said. “Our hypothesis is, any group that is at risk of obesity or metabolic disease is more likely to be affected than a group that leads a healthy lifestyle, exercise, etc.”

The increased research studies focused on PFAS open up many reporting possibilities for journalists beyond initial reports.

Story ideas on PFAS include:

  • How are doctors taking this risk into account with young patients?
  • what is the status of pfas test How to determine the PFAS load of a child or young adult, and how accessible is it? (Note: Experts say testing exists but is hard to obtain and they expect it to become more routine in the future.)
  • What is the state of environmental justice around PFAS and what is being done about it?
  • Are policies being developed to help reduce exposure or educate overburdened communities about the dangers of PFAS?
  • Are there solutions that are reducing exposure or helping communities become more aware of the dangers of PFAS?
  • What can families do if they learn about elevated PFAS levels in their children, what are they doing, how are they coping?

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